Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reading 'In the Company of Vampires'

Did you ever wish that a writer you liked would slow down and write fewer books? I read a lot. One time I tried to use one of those book apps on Facebook and I didn't realize that it loaded my status every time I added a book to my list that I had read. It was actually kind of funny how my profile filled up. This thing was designed for the person who only reads one or two books a year. I can't quite imagine how many books I've read. I finished two this week, but it's usually a book every other week or so. I don't keep track. Maybe some day I'll make a list of the books I've read. Maybe not.

So this week, I was reading an author that I like. A lot. Katie MacAlister. She's the only romance writer that I read. She's funny, in the same way that Christopher Moore is funny. His book, 'A Dirty Job,' is one of my favorites and I love his series that includes 'You Suck.'

The book I just finished reading is 'In the Company of Vampires.' The beginning was great. I liked that the main character is a girl who is six feet tall and not model-skinny. I loved these three characters, Viking ghosts, that accompany her as well as embarrass her. They were a little over the top, but I realized that I'd like having characters in my life that were boisterous, a little pushy, and very loving. They were hysterical and somehow realistic. I imagined these three guys getting ready for a renaissance fair with MacAlister.

See, the thing that keeps me in a romance novel is how much I relate to the main character and what's going on around her. I like that MacAlister's heroine is clueless much of the time.  Then there's this guy that loves her beyond all reason.  I like that her settings are interesting and pretty thoroughly understood.  I stopped reading Nora Roberts when I realized that she didn't know the difference between a semi-automatic and a revolver. I mean, if you're going to use a gun in a book, you should know how to put the bullets into it. Still, I liked Roberts' book 'Born in Fire,' because she managed to keep a decent Irish accent and her heroine was a glass artist. See, the details really do matter, people.

So I romped through MacAlister's book and got to the end late last night and fell flat on my face. The heroine finished her quest, became linked to her lover, everyone lived happily ever after, and 'The End,' right? What? I wanted my climax! Really, it was like a bad interlude where the guy is trying to just get the job done so you'll get ready for him already. (I do actually remember dating way back when and those guys were the worst.) I wanted the real thing in the book where there's a moment when you really think that something might fail. I wanted a resolution to the mom thing in this story. I wanted the creepy guy to go up in smoke. I wanted cheering and kissing all around. It really is hard to critique without telling you the ending of the book, but I'm telling you, those publishers told MacAlister to finish that book and start another one and she threw a faux-ending on it and called it good the way you would after six cups of coffee, when it's 4:30 am, your term paper is due at 8:00 and you still have to type the whole damn thing.  I was left lying in bed, listless and unsatisfied.

I recently read on Katie MacAlister's blog that she has an ulcer. I can understand why. She's on this treadmill of publishing two or three books a year, managing e-reader versions, and all that goes with it.  I feel kind of bad for her if her lifestyle is making her health deteriorate. I imagine that the life she leads at home is less like her books than it used to be.  I hope she doesn't really need the money at this point because I want to give her some advice. If I met Katie MacAlister, I would tell her how much I love her books. I would tell her that her characters and her settings are great, that I want more of them. I would tell her that she's funny and can usually tell a story like nobody's business. Then, I would tell her to quit the romance novel business and play for a year or so at least until her health is restored. And I would ask her to write a book without telling any publishers about it. It should have those good characters and settings, but the main thing she'd need to do is write something that really meant something to her, a story that came from her heart. I'd ask her to take her time and make it just the way she thought was right, finished when it was finished and not before. And I'd ask her to never go back to being pushed around by a publisher again.

After complaining about all that, I'm going to start another one of Katie MacAlister's books.
Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Waking Up Worried

I woke up really worried about Mike. He hasn't been sleeping well and last night was no exception.  Three to four hours of sleep a night is not enough to function on. He rallies for what he really needs to do, but in between, he's not energetic. I've even seen him flagging with Nickie, his sweet boy.

Everyone's fears are based on their own experiences. What a generalization. You know what I mean, though. Our experiences can form our fears.  I'm a woman who has seen death. I'm not particularly afraid of my own death. I'll either be dead and gone or I'll be somewhere else. To be honest, I kind of look forward to finding out when I get to that point. Will it be an adventure?

I believe that when I die, my soul will go on, that I'll go through the hell of really knowing the truth of the pain I've caused people and the heaven of knowing what I did right. I believe that heaven is knowing, really knowing, how everything works and seeing the beauty in the system. The other day, I was watching 'How the Galaxy Works' on the Science Channel.  Oh, it fed my inner geek. I loved learning that our galaxy has a black hole at the center. The scientists talked about the 'sweet spot' in the galaxy which can support life and I laughed and said out loud, "Life as we understand it! There's probably life in all levels of the galaxies, but we just can't recognize it." Yes, I talk to the television. I was amazed to hear that galaxies together form some kind of structure. There, that could be another large form of life that operates on such a different scale that we can't see it. Kind of like 'Horton Hears a Who.' So, I'm not exactly afraid of death as long as I do what I need to do while I'm alive.

I don't look forward to the pain that precedes death. That part is hard, but I've experienced pain, pain that made me pass out. I'm pretty sure I can handle the pain of death too.  Guess I'll have to.  It's so different in the experiences I've had. My grandpa died of a heart attack and was gone in seconds. My dad went through so much to try to live with cancer. He hurt. I remember the blanket we had, a velour one, that was the only thing that was light and soft enough that it didn't hurt him. Chemotherapy doesn't just cause nausea. He had so many surgeries that I lost count, at least three, maybe four. That was painful. There was the embarrassment, which for a manly man like him was significant, of having a colostomy that smelled bad and made noises he couldn't control. My dad liked being in control of himself. We were sitting downstairs on the couch, watching TV one time, when he said, "Now I know why God put our butts behind us instead of in front." Chemotherapy made us leave church early, made my dad's carpool bring him home early, made him hide in the far bathroom to vomit with my mother presiding over him for a couple of days after each one.

But you should know that my dad's death was actually peaceful. He went into a coma from too much chemotherapy. This was 1973, before they'd refined the doses. He wasn't in a coma for many hours. They had called us in. We knew it was happening. The nurses on my dad's floor finally relented and said that I didn't have to wait in the lobby, that I could be with my family by my dad's bedside even though I wasn't fourteen yet. I had waited for cumulative days in that lobby, trying to focus on reading a book or doing homework. So at least I was in the room with my dad when he died and not waiting in the lobby. For that, I am truly grateful. My brother and sister were in a nearby waiting room. We were only allowed in one at a time and it was my turn.

I sat at my dad's side touching his hair and talking quietly to him. The nurse had said that sometimes people in a coma can hear you, so I talked. I have no idea what I said. I hope I told him I loved him, though we didn't say that so much back then. There was a woman talking to my mother on the other side of the room. I remember wishing she would go away. I remember thinking that we didn't know her well enough for her to be here at this personal time.  She seemed to be trying to take over and was too interested in 'helping' and I didn't like her. But I ignored her and focused on my dad.

I just talked to him in this whisper and played with his hair. He would have wanted a haircut and I hoped what I was doing didn't hurt.  One moment, my dad was breathing very quietly, and the next, he wasn't. I had this feeling that his soul moved up and across over my mother's head and out of the room. I remember looking that direction. Then, when I looked back at my dad, I knew he wasn't there in that body. There was just one brief moment when it was just me there, then nurses burst into the room, the lady I didn't like grabbed me by the arm, and pushed me out to join my brother and sister. They could tell that he'd died by the look on my face. I didn't need to say a word. The clock read 4:15.

My sister remembers this so very differently than I did.  I don't have proof, but I wrote about it in my diary when I was thirteen. It doesn't matter though. We all have our own truth to tell and this is the most compelling truth that I know. I was there with my dad one moment and in the next, he swept up and was gone. I would not trade that moment for anything. For having him back, maybe, but not for anything else.

So my fear isn't that I will die.  I know it will happen.  I was in the room with Mike when his mother stopped breathing. I've lived through losing my four grandparents that I loved too. I know death.

My fear, my gut-wrenching fear, is that my son will have to go through losing a parent too early the way I did, that he'll have to worry that he might forget his dad. My fear is that he won't find the words anywhere that tell him how much Mike loves him. My life did a 180 degree turn when my dad died.  I searched through all of his books to find his words, to see anything that was his life before I lost him. I tried to follow in his footsteps, but learned that the best way for me to feel my dad's love is to write about him. It's hard to realize, but it helps me to remember that I could never forget him.

I lived through those early years after my dad died, but I can tell you they were the worst years of my life and the loneliest. I came through it somehow and now, for the most part, I thrive in the life I've been given. I believe that in living through the depths of despair, I know what real joy can be. It's a hard lesson, but well earned. Still, I keep telling Mike that he has to take care of himself, that Nicky needs him and he has to take care. I really don't want Nick to have to do it the way I did.

Thank you for listening, jb

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Day Seth Saved Nick's Life, Part 2

So I'm listening to Ofra Harnoy's Brahms Cello Sonatas. I love this disk. I've listened to Yo Yo Ma, and I like his work, but there's something passionate about Ofra Harnoy's playing that keeps me coming back to it over and over again. I don't care how skilled a musician is, I don't get drawn to the work if it's not done with a little bit of drama. There's another thing you'll learn about me. I'm a hedonist. I love chocolate, passionate music, great food, and very soft sweaters. I love what's made to be comfortable.

Did I tell you that my lungs are still bubbling? It's really uncomfortable. Everything is hard work - doing a load of dishes, helping to core and peel apples in the classroom, making meatloaf. I'm resting as much as I can in between, but I'm sure my pneumonia isn't gone.  Something's definitely not right in there yet.

I'm trying to get on with it ...

The other day, Nick told me that he loves his cat the way I loved my dog when I was a kid. I can see that. Seth comes running when Nick and his best friend, Adrian, come in the room.  Buddy, my baby-kitty, runs and hides. Buddy likes Nick, but only when he's by himself and very, very quiet. Sometimes, when Nick and Adrian set up a fort in the living room, they use Seth's feather toys to play 'robot laser cat.'  They use the toys to fish for Seth, but when he looks at them, his laser-eyes burn through their shields.  It's a great game, but not every cat would do it. Later, Seth stands in the window and cries when the boys go to play outside or when Adrian goes home and it gets too quiet. 

Seth doesn't let Nick pet him too roughly, but will nip just a little. It has never broken the skin, and Nick knows when he's done too much these days, so it hasn't happened in over a year. I used to squirt Seth with a water bottle when he did that, but shouldn't he have some way of letting people know when it's too rough? I figured the water bottle wasn't a bad way to tell Seth to be gentle too. The problem with that is that Seth doesn't mind getting wet. When Nick was a baby, Seth used to stand knee-deep in the bath tub with him.  It was a funny sight, but no less so than when he jumps up onto the toilet to watch the water go down with a flush.

Seth goes into Nick's room at night and sleeps on the foot of the bed until Nick falls asleep. He doesn't stay, because he's much too awake and plays with Buddy at night, but he's very patient and stays about an hour or so until Nicky is asleep.  I like that.

About a year ago, my sister-in-law came to visit for the first time since Nicky was a baby. It was a great trip and Nicky loved thinking of things to show his aunt: the Space Needle where you can eat in the revolving restaurant, putting messages on the outside banister to see them come around with answers on them; the ferries where you can sometimes see Dall's porpoises swimming in the wake; the waterfront with the museum of oddities (including a mummy), beautiful views of Puget Sound, and a fish place where they encourage you to throw french fries to the sea gulls. It was great for Nick to get to know his aunt.

Still, what he remembers most is the day they were on the couch and she was tickling him too much. We always stop the minute he wants to stop or even when he sounds like he's a little out of breath. Her kids are grown and she's a little out of practice with kids. He told me that she'd gotten him to a point that he couldn't breath and he was starting to panic. Watching them, I didn't realize this, though I did think it was a little much. 

Suddenly, Seth jumped up on top of my sister-in-law with his fur standing straight up from his body. He was growling and staring her in the eye as if he was going into battle. I'd never seen him like this. Even when a dog came into the house, it was more fear that aggression that I saw and then, only his tail and spine fur would stand up. She stopped tickling Nick, looked at him, and laughed. As quickly as it came, Seth's fur relaxed and he rubbed his head against her hand.  Seth is the strangest cat I ever knew, but I wouldn't trade him for a million dollars.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Eulogy for a Not-Quite Deceased Hamster

Nick has a hamster named Tuffcake.  She is a really sweet hamster except for the one time Mike, my husband, tried to clean her house wearing latex gloves and she got really scared and bit him.  Mike hasn't had anything to do with Tuffcake since that incident.  I had forgotten to tell him my modus operandi - always bring food to the hamster when you think she might get scared.  To her credit, Tuffcake never once bit anyone else. I was careful when kids wanted to play with her, but I noticed that Nick was less careful. She seemed to like being picked up, even going into her little portable carrier to visit Nick's room or better yet, the front yard where she got to eat real grass.

Last fall, something shifted in the house and three mice were able to sneak in while we weren't looking.  I cleaned and sanitized the whole house, bought $137.00 worth of traps, and set Buddy and Seth, the two cats, about taking care of them. Buddy just watched, but in the time the traps caught one mouse, Seth had two down. He was so proud of himself.

I couldn't help but note the irony that we took in this small hamster rodent and happily played with her, fed her, provided a home and a portable carrier, and even cleaned up after her. Yet, I wasn't able to share my big house with the likes of three tiny mice.  I tell you, it's the mouse I fed in my basement when I was a kid. She was very cute with big round ears and a twitchy nose. But she had a litter in the Christmas ornaments, chewed up a lot of them, and we had to throw away some of my favorites that we'd collected over the years. I hadn't been quite able to forgive the mouse species for that loss. When you add the fact that our area supports the Hanta virus, I have closed my mind against them. No mice allowed.  I know it's bigotry to love hamsters but to hate mice, but there you are.

Tuffcake loved eating Brussels sprouts and green beans.  She was a good role model for eating a healthy diet and I paid attention. She liked fruit and greens and even an occasional kitty kibble. Her downfall was unsalted peanuts. She ran 4 1/2 miles every night. We did invest in one of those squeakless wheels, but ended up with a cheap metal one that we sprayed with vegetable oil when it got loud. I was inspired by her lifestyle.

Despite her healthy habits, Tuffcake got a tumor at Christmas. At first, it just looked like she'd stored a bit of food in her left pouch. But by Valentine's Day, it was as if she carried a basketball under her front left paw. In the last couple of days, it's been more like a hamster-sized suitcase. Up until two days ago, she carried her suitcase around, checked her bars, ran just a little less on the wheel and ate any good snacks she was offered. 

Tonight, she's dying. I know I shouldn't, but I'm not going to tell Nick what's happening until after we get back from Mom and Me Cub Scout camp on Sunday afternoon. I brought Tuffcake into his room tonight, and she perked up and looked up at him sweetly and tried to pretend for a minute that it didn't hurt. I know it was all she could do. I sat on the couch for an hour as she panted with her eyes closed.  I had to put her back into her house while I packed our stuff for the camping trip.  We leave early tomorrow morning and Nicky knows that she isn't well, but doesn't know yet that she's dying.

Mike's going to be her only friend for a couple of days. I hope they make their peace. But to be honest, I hope that when I get a moment to sit tonight before bedtime, that Tuffcake can sit in her soft blankets on my lap and breathe her last in the hands of someone who loves her.

I will miss her sweet face peering out at me when I couldn't sleep. I will miss the gentle way she leaned on my hands to eat the treats I offered her. Nicky will miss carrying her on adventures where she could use her laser sights to shoot missiles out of the front of her ship. 

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Day Seth Saved Nick's Life, Part 1

My boy, Nick, said that I should tell you how his cat saved his life. I was telling that story to Morris, the mailman, just today. Isn't that a coincidence? Morris has two pugs and knows that I'm a real dog person even though I have two cats. I'm always talking to him about how my cats act like dogs. He's heard the stories about my old dogs too. He's a good sport, Morris.

There was Poppie, the dog I grew up with. My parents got her two years before I was born, when my brother was a baby. They always said she was a Cocker Spaniel and Irish Setter mix.  I could see the Spaniel.  She had long soft ruffly ears that were very sensitive. But the rest of her was all poodle, big black curls and a long thin nose.  I think my dad just didn't want to have a poodle.  It must be a guy thing. Poppie wasn't allowed into the house because my mother didn't want a mess, so I spent a lot of time at her house, the garage.  My mother never realized that Poppie was a very clean dog. I think she was glad to get both of us out of the house. I was never a clean kid. I made messes wherever I went.

Poppie was so good at listening to me.  She loved to lie between my feet as I sat on the concrete step in the garage.  I had a lot to say to Poppie. She was the only one in my family who listened to me and she'd look at me with her soft loving eyes that told me she understood what I was saying. She was the one I went to when I needed to cry.  I brushed Poppie's long curls avoiding her ears. I petted her. We both had black curly hair so I tried to take care of hers too.  She had a naked pink belly that I tried to keep clean. I don't think my mother knew I used her good wash cloths to do it.

Poppie went everywhere my brother and I went. She even got agitated if we went too far or she didn't like what we were doing.  What Poppie loved best after my brother, sister, and I were rabbits. Oh, she never caught a rabbit. She just liked to chase them. Rabbits made Poppie very happy. She always had a grin on her face when she ran after them.

The summer I was eleven, my brother found a baby robin that had fallen out of a high nest. He tried to put it back in, but even with the extension ladder, he couldn't reach it. So we named him Rickie and my brother made me part of his animal rescue team. He did this every time he found a lost or abandoned animal mostly because no one else would. We had baby bunnies whose nest had been run over by a lawn mower. We had a baby mole with fur so soft, you could barely feel it. We brought home turtles, salamanders, and birds. We kept our Rickie alive, taking turns with the nighttime feedings. I learned that if you don't mash it up, a worm will crawl right out of a bird's mouth.  I didn't like mashing worms, but I did it for Rickie.

Rickie lived through our nighttime feedings. We were such proud parents when Rickie learned to fly. At first, we just let him perch on our fingers, then we lifted him gently up and down so he'd flap his wings. There were things my brother was sure we had to do. I think he would have learned to fly without our help, but I followed the protocol set down for me. That bird got exercise, food, water, all on a schedule and I was not allowed to deviate.

Eventually, we taught Rickie to land on our heads because our hands were usually busy. I'll tell you, Rickie never once pooped on my head and for that I'm grateful. One day, Rickie was flying back and forth between my brother and I when Poppie trotted around the corner of the house. Now, Poppie and Rickie had met, but Rickie, being a bird not a rabbit, was of no interest to Poppie. She was thirteen by then and had a little of that attitude old ladies get about the outside world, that it can carry on just fine without your attention for the most part. Well, that day, Rickie was looking for black curly hair and my brother had ducked into the house for a drink. But there was Poppie, a back full of curly black hair just like mine and Rickie landed there.  At the touch of those gripping feet, Poppie leaped up into the air and ran around the corner of the house.  The last thing I saw was Rickie clinging with both feet to one curl and flopping back and forth on her back like rag doll. Poor Rickie. Poor Poppie. I'm glad neither of them had a heart attack that day.

Despite a heart murmur at 11, despite a stroke at 13, and the brain tumor that made Poppie's eye bulge out of its socket, Poppie lived to be 18 years old.  She helped me live through losing my dad, my grandpa, and seeing both my brother and sister leave home.  I think Poppie knew how much I needed her then and hung on just for me. Plus, there were so many rabbits to chase.

I know I'll get around to telling you the rest of Nick's story. It's almost as if these stories are linked, though I'm not sure how, except by love.

Thanks for listening, jb

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Closer to Summer

I'm still not feeling well, so forgive me if I blog badly for a little longer. Prednisone jitters. Not so much oxygen deprivation, but a little. I wrote a draft for you, but it was petty. Can you believe this stuff?

I'm trying to break myself of the habit of putting two spaces after a period. Why do I worry about that? Some people don't even use capital letters.  (I won't tell you who I'm sniping about because I really like her blog.) Why can't I use two spaces after my sentences? I like what it does visually.  It allows you to breathe for a second. It tells you that, yes, this is indeed the end of the sentence.  It is, like capital letters, a visual clue.  I like visual clues.  I'm all for being unique and all, but not using capital letters isn't unique or creative.  ee cummings did it.  Lots of other people have done it.  Not to do it out of laziness is different.  Not a good reason. like what if I was lazy and didn't use capital letters? what then? okay, now, I'm really lazy and I don't use any punctuation either so then i'm too lazy to use either capitals or punctuation now you dont know when my sentences are done is it getting a little harder to read so now im a seriously lazy typist and i dont want to bother with spelling out silent letters either has anon out ther trid to red som text mesages that com somtims the dont mak any sens now is my lazines startin to bothr u nowimgivinupspacstobecuzimlazyoruniqorwatevrnowruhavinfunredinthis

Petty right? So now you know - I have a petty side.  It's there.  I can't deny it.  Why I try to pretend that I'm this nice person, I don't know.  You're going to know the truth anyway. 

So I'm planning to ditch all that in favor of the weather.

It's a beautiful cold day here, sunny and 62 degrees. My friend, Korley, is in Cancun where it's hot and sunny. I'm jealous, but trying to take it in stride because I felt a little better and it's nice to get back to my life. She's from California. She facebooked me to tell me she was joining an exercise class on the beach today. Okay, so I joined my fold-some-clothes exercise class this morning for a quick warm-up. This afternoon, I joined another class, the pull-some-weeds class which was very satisfying as a tiny corner of my yard looks better and I did just enough to feel winded, but not over-tired. Just so's you know, I'm not a big gardener. I wish I was, but I'm not, but pulling those weeds felt good. Now, I can tell you that these are the days that those California transplants just live for in the Pacific Northwest, so that when Korley gets back from Cancun, all tanned and smiling, I'll be able to tell her that she missed out on the best week of the summer and that's it, we're done with it and we'll be back to the rain until next summer.  Ha! It could be true.  But probably not.

Well, here's the truth about our spot on the 48th parallel: it has a glorious summer. While all my friends across the U.S. are complaining of the 98 percent humidity and the oppressive heat at 97 degrees, I'll be basking in cool sunny days that just might reach 82, which isn't so bad if you want to go play at Rattlesnake Lake. 

Did I tell you about Rattlesnake Lake? It's this amazing little lake near where I live.  It's actually an Army Corps of Engineering mistake.  See, in 1915, our guys decided to dam a stream up in the mountains and create a pristine water supply for Seattle.  They did that.  Seattle water tastes great! But the mountains, being mostly stone and moss, leaked water from that dam through a ridge and down into a little town named Moncton which had old-growth trees around it and sat at the northern edge of a pond named Rattlesnake Lake. It was an idyllic place to live as it had a pretty ridge to the South, a rocky peak to the North and a nice view of the sunset out West. Who wouldn't enjoy living in a sleepy little village by a lake in the mountains. But the seepage kept making the lake rise and eventually they cut down the old-growth trees and evacuated the homes and businesses. 

So sometimes we take our canoe out to Rattlesnake Lake to play. When the water level is low, you can still see the old submerged stumps.  Some of them have notches for spring-boards in their sides. Two loggers would stand opposite each other, with a ten foot long hand saw, on these spring-boards where the tree had narrowed out a bit. Still, the trees that they cut were at least three feet in diameter.  Can you imagine standing on a two by six board with a two-man saw in your hands and cutting down a tree that massive? You'd really have to leap away when that thing started to come down. Man, logging was a dangerous business.

We look at these stumps every time we paddle our canoe there.  Most of them are submerged, but some are not and sometimes, we climb up onto them to jump off.  Some of the stumps are taller and have nests and bushes on top. 

We paddle over the submerged trees like clouds passing. And I imagine us, my husband, my son, and I in our canoe.  We drift across the Moncton sky and little ghost boys down there, lying in the grass by their ghost houses looking up can see us and point and say, "Hey, look at that cloud. That looks like people in a boat." 

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Trip to the ER

I am in the emergency room with wires stuck to me. I'm not having a heart attack. I'm having trouble breathing. It's probably bronchitis or pneumonia, but they're trying to rule out a blood clot to my lungs. My poor boy was scared for me. Poor kid is still sick himself and needs to be home in bed. They gave me an X-ray, then a breathing treatment. I feel like a wuss. My boy's oxygen saturation frequently gets down to 91 percent before we pack for the ER. He has handled that so well. Mine was 94 percent and I panicked. So, here we are. They gave me Vicodin before I had the CAT scan so I'm not sure I followed the breathing directions the way I should have. I did the Chatty Cathy thing and told the technician about the dirty jokes I told my doctor just before they put me out for surgery. I'll tell you that story some other time. Maybe I should start keeping a list of stories I've promised you.

So my husband and my boy have gone to the car to see if they can get some sleep. Our Prius is pretty comfortable and there are still a couple of blankets in there from the winter.

I'm dressed in ugly black stirrup pants that I still wear around the house like pajamas. How embarrassing is that? Plus, I'm in a hospital gown that is untied. I have a blood-pressure cuff on my left arm and the oxygen/ heart rate monitor on my right finger. I can't tie my gown on.

Did I tell you they gave me pain meds? Narcotics. I don't like them, but how do you say 'No' when they come in with it and tell you that you need it? My oxygen saturation is still only 95 percent, but my breathing feels much easier.

The worst thing is this itchy paper mask I have to wear because I'm possibly infectious. It feels like I can't breathe through it and it keeps pushing up into my lower eyelashes. When you feel panicked that you can't breathe, the mask definitely doesn't help.

The blood-pressure cuff is really squeezing my arm and for a minute, my fingers felt fat and turned red as if they were holding their breath.

Did I tell you that my doctor is cute? Don't tell my sweet husband I said that. I'm getting old enough that my doctors are starting to look like big kids. My doctor is being really cautious with all this clot stuff, but I guess I'm starting to be old enough for it. That stinks. My grandpa had a clot and it killed him. Two other of my grandparents died of heart issues and my brother had a double bypass and needs another. I guess the history is there. I'm just getting tired now that I feel like I can breathe and I'd like to get an antibiotic for my cough and go home, cute doctor or not.

So, while I'm waiting for my results and my boys are hopefully sleeping, I'm sitting here typing on my iPhone. Did I tell you that I love my iPhone. I wish I had a Placker flosser, but I asked my husband to bring my purse with him, so I'm stuck blowing old lady breath all over the cute doctor. Bummer. I probably have a bad case of bed hair too, now that I think about it. I'm really not trying to impress the cute doctor, but it would be nice if I knew my breath wasn't gross. It isn't worth asking my husband and my boy to come up for that though, especially if they're sleeping.
I'm starting to feel like an idiot. It's going to be a bad case of bronchitis and panic. And for that, I've kept my family up well past midnight and paid a hundred fifty dollar copay.

Guess I really didn't feel well though. It was a little like the time my brother held me under water just a little too long.

I still feel a little jittery and the lights are bright or I might try to sleep. My heart rate was 107 a minute ago, but it's in the nineties now.

Did I tell you I don't like pain meds? So I feel like I can breathe easier, but I feel a little sick to my stomach.

Cute doctor just came in and smiled me to death. I have pneumonia. No clot, thank God. I'm getting IV antibiotics and prescriptions for more at home along with cough syrup with codeine for sleeping and the go-ahead to use my boy's Xopenex when I need it. I should be home by 2:15am. I guess I won't be volunteering at school tomorrow.

They just came in to set up my IV. That nurse really thought I needed the television. Why do people assume that? I kept telling her I was okay without it. I could read blogs on my iPhone with my ear buds in and my music on. I guess TV will be okay instead.

I just forgot what I was going to write. Must be done then.

Thank you for listening, jb

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

I'm lying in bed again today, but I feel much better. Yesterday was a trip! Not a great trip either. Here it is - I don't like being altered. Well, I like the feeling of a half a beer, but that's it. So all this stuff is pretty uncomfortable. The prednisone and Xopenex make my heart race as if I should do something and my hands shake too much to do it. The cough syrup with codeine lets me sleep even with the jitteriness of the prednisone and it slows my rate of respiration so it's a little frightening with the low oxygen. It also gives me a hangover and makes me stupid. The low oxygen makes it exhausting to move, even to focus my eyes, gives me a headache, and makes words sound weird in my mouth.

I'm watching 'Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.' I love that movie, the angst, the gum, the band thing. I was in a garage band when I was in my twenties. Oh man, I loved it. I played keyboards and sang, mostly backups. But I could belt out a Pat Benetar song with the best of them. We had one paid gig. On New Year's Eve of 1986, we played in one of those private clubs in the Bronx. There were two hundred guests. It was so exciting! I had about two beers to loosen up, guys spilling drinks on my keyboard, and lots of angst. There were four guys there that I either had either dated, was dating, or had the potential to date.

One guy was the drummer in the band and was always asking if I'd brought any money at a restaurant after the bill came. He said he loved watching my hands as I played. Another guy showed up early, helped the band members set up, knowing about the drummer and I and another of the guys there that I was dating, and spent the whole show running the lights because our light guy didn't show. Afterward, he stayed and helped the drummer pack up his drums and then we caravan our cars out of the Bronx and went out for breakfast at 6:00 am. One guy was the lead singer's little brother and was nine years younger than I was. He looked like he should be on TV, had a brand new mustang, and adored me. He was only eighteen. The last guy said he loved me, but used to make fun of me behind my back. He was that guy who could piss off a waitress with a snap of the fingers. I'm sure I had spit in my soup more than once when I was out with him. He came late, but left early to make up for it.

So, are you curious? Or do you already know which one I ended up with?

I married the lighting guy and I've never looked back.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An hour spent looking at my thumb.

Still pink.

Standing in front of you

Completely invisible.

Looking at

the wrinkles in my skin.

Husband came.

Oxygen saturation
92 percent
After Xopenex.
Going to have prednisone.
Antibiotic isn't working.
Have to get through the weekend
High on oxygen deprivation.

Sick and Looking Out My Skylight

Blinding bright,
A strange expanse of time.
Flowers and faces in the clouds,
Some scary, some sad,
Some with large noses and love.
Tree boughs waving at me,
A mother's touch.
Saw Leonardo da Vinci
And a lion's nose,
Fibbernacci's numbers in fractals,
great kings and ogres,
Some kind.
Birth and extinction
Painted in swirls
Of white and blue.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I burned my boy's toast. I dropped the cat's food upside down on the kitchen floor. I'm still loopy from my virus, so bear with me. Yesterday was a wash since I slept like a cat, but today I feel just well enough to do things badly.

It's raining again. My friends have been complaining about the rain. "That's what you get for moving from California to the Pacific Northwest," I tell them. They're not all from California and I'm not exactly sympathetic. I like the weather here most of the time. It's generally a misty rain, not a downpour. The damp weather is the reason that Starbucks originated here and not in California. People here want to walk around with a warm drink in their hands.

When you live where it's so very green, the reason is usually lots of rain.  Most of the deciduous trees outside my window have moss growing on their branches. Some even have licorice fern growing in their elbows. My boy tells me that's the understory. There are four levels to the temperate rainforest, he tells me as he points: the forest floor, the shrub layer, the understory, and the canopy. I love that I can learn from my boy. I look out my window to the understory, all verdant and dripping with jewels of raindrops. I would swear that if I put a clean rock outside in the fall, it would have moss growing on it by spring. I like that.

I didn't grow up here. This weather, even after living here for twenty years, still feels exotic to me. I grew up in the Midwest. It was dry and cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer. The best part about where I grew up were the small steep hills that were dropped by the glaciers in the last ice age. Hills are at a premium in the Midwest. I also like that you can walk straight through the forest without a path. As a child, I used to look off into the distance and see clouds on the horizon. My mind sometimes tried to interpret them as distant mountains. Here, the mountains often look like clouds in the distance. Once in a while, I look out my window and think, 'I live here.' I try not to take it for granted.

In the Pacific Northwest, you don't walk the woods easily without a path. The sword ferns are waist deep and the rest of the brush is thick, usually with Oregon grape, bracken, thimbleberry, salal, vine maple and snowberry. Even if you're off the trail, you unknowingly push through on an animal's trail and hold your elbows at shoulder height. The ground is usually very soft and without high top shoes, your socks will get wet.

When I look up my house on Google Earth or Google Maps, Street level, all I see are trees. I can tell I'm on the right road. The satellites show my road through the trees. And I recognize our neighbor's deck. But where my house should be is green, green, green. This isn't the kind of area where you try to grow things in your yard. Instead, you try not to grow things in your yard. It's a battlefield out there, my friend. If I could hear it, I know those plants would be rushing forward, screaming, and clashing their swords in their battle for territory. Humans are not the only warriors on this planet.

When we first bought our house, I tried to climb the hill into our back yard. For every step up in the dirt, I would slide back three or four inches. When the weather got wet, it was worse. I stopped going up at all when I learned that we live in a slide zone. We are lucky that we've never had a slide behind our house, but we don't do much to the ground or plants back there any more because of our fear of destabilizing it. We were told that the mountain beaver who make little condos behind our house seem to know what is stable and what is not. I'm glad they know more about the geology here than I do. After twenty years, I have learned that our area supports two kinds of places, flood plains and slide zones. Great place for real estate, huh?

Some people here get tired of the rain. It's not a great place to live if you don't like being dripped on. It is a great place to live if you need to look out your window into the understory, with the moss, the ferns, and the nesting birds.

Thank you for listening, jb

Monday, May 9, 2011

Where Does Comfort Come From?

Since I still have a cold, I need to be surrounded by my favorite things, like a spoiled, reclining advertisement.  Why would I want advertise? Well, I'm surrounded by these things that make me comfortable. Someone made them. Who do I have to thank for all the things that I use and love in my home? Let's see.

I like Kleen Kanteens because the bottoms go through my dishwasher and never smell like aluminum or any of the old smells, like lemonade or sour milk, that my old plastic canteens did. My boy brought one in filled with gravel and dirt. After I wash it, it won't smell like dirt. I also don't have to worry that I'm using as many resources like when I used to buy bottled water. On top of that, I don't have to wonder if a cat has dipped his paw into my glass while I was in another room. Speaking of water, I really like having a bubbly water cooler in my house.  I admit that our well water tastes pretty bad. It's local and healthy for us, but it has a sulphur flavor. My husband bought a water filter for under the sink, but he's been really busy lately and didn't get a chance to install it yet.  He's a Cub Scout Den Leader.  That's a good excuse.  You wouldn't believe how much time that man puts into making these meetings fun for the boys. Tonight they're learning how to safely build a fire and making s'mores.  My boy is really sad he's too sick to go to this one. S'mores! Kleen Kanteens are made in China. I didn't turn my bubbly over to see where it was made. Sorry.

I like my Sonicare tooth brush and my Placker flossers because I can walk around with my teeth feeling like I just got my teeth cleaned at the dentist even when my nose is all clogged up.  Here's my secret - I keep flossers in my purse so I can floss on the way to meeting someone. You know that old-lady-nasty-breath smell? That goes away after you floss. Both my Sonicare and the Plackers were made in China. I want that clean feeling now. Hold on a minute...

I live with my iPhone in my pocket. I do way more than just call people on it. I can text, blog, facebook, and MapQuest on there. Is 'facebooking' a verb yet? It's also a huge plus to be able to hand my phone to a bored boy in a waiting room.  Don't worry, I still carry a book where ever I go.  Can you believe I don't have all my books on an e-reader already? And can you believe that I didn't want one of these phones at first? I would use my husband's for calls now and then but didn't have it figured out. I borrowed it for everything else. I think he got tired of me snagging it. Boy, am I a convert. My iPhone was made in the USA, but components came from Korea, Taiwan, the U.K. And the apps? They come from all over.

I love the blank notebooks my husband gets for me on with a photo of my boy on the cover. I told you that my husband's behind, but I really thought he'd get me one for Mother's Day. I'd bet he ordered one but it didn't come in yet. In between, I usually use Moleskine notebooks. And to go with the blank notebooks, I love my Itoya Paper Skater pens. They just feel right. I can't quite tell where my Snapfish notebooks come from, but my Moleskine notebooks come from Italy and China. Itoya pens come from Taiwan.

I love Celestial Seasonings Peppermint tea.  I've made about five cups of it between the two of us today. We aren't eating very much, but we're drinking lots of fluids.  Two Christmas's ago, my boy's face lit up when he tasted a candy cane. "Mom! This is just like your tea!" he said. I miss the little sayings on the box. It's just an ordinary box now. It looks like they make their tea in the U.S.

I love my fleece slippers from Land's End.  They are so worn in that I have no idea where they were made. Land's End said they came from Israel.  I'm sure the electrons from the Live Help came from around the world too considering how convoluted our conversation was. The answers were scripted and didn't quite fit my questions but they were polite answers. Still, it doesn't cost much to send electrons around the world and it was nice having an easy way to ask.

I live in my LL Bean Katahdin Iron Works hooded sweatshirt. My husband and I each bought two so that we still have one to wear when the other one's in the wash.  The secret is that they're heavy and the sleeves are lined. We bought different colors so we wouldn't look like those nauseating married couples who dress in matching clothes. My hoodie is made in Jordan.

I like my Dell computer. It's made in China. The software and components in it come from all over the world.

And I like my Sonoma fleece blanket that my mother sent me for Christmas a few years ago.  It's made in China too. The quilt I made for another person on the couch came from my sewing room.  The fabric in it, the batting, and the thread came from all over the world, I'm sure. My Kleenex are made in the U.S. from domestic and imported material.

So thank you China, Jordan, Taiwan, Korea, the U.S., the U.K., Israel, and Italy for making all these things that have made me more comfortable at home today. Who made your favorite things?

Thank you for listening, jb

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

So, my boy and I are catching colds. I'm so bummed. Children are not supposed to be sick on Mother's Day.  It isn't fair.  Uh oh, I'm whining and expecting a fairy tale again. Sorry.

All day, that song's been running through my head about my favorite things.  You know, the one that Julie Andrews sang in 'The Sound of Music.' When I was a kid, I loved that movie and whenever I was sad, I pretended I was Julie Andrews and sang 'My Favorite Things' and it helped. 

But then, I'm always singing my way through trouble, even when I can't do it out loud. I even made up songs for my boy when he was going to the doctor or saying goodnight to his dad. It was a shock for me to learn that most people don't do that.

I wonder what would have happened that time when I was in the hospital in traction, if I'd started singing to help my pain the way I wanted to.  I know it sounds strange, but the singing really helps.  Still, I was in a hospital, so I didn't sing.  Even on the pain relievers that they gave me, the ones that gave me strange dreams, I was lucid enough to know not to sing lying in a hospital in the middle of the night. I'll tell you that sad story some other time.

So the song running through my head has me wanting to making a list of my favorite things. When I figure out how to sing a blog, I might.  You wait.  But not tonight, my boy's trying to sleep. You'll have to get by with a simple list.

I love the way I can look out my skylights and see trillium and bleeding heart growing on the forest ridge behind my house.

I love the tiny table and chair on my little back deck where I keep flowers and hope for dry days so I can go out there to write, look at the different shades of green, and listen to the birds sing.

I love the old Western Red Cedar tree that holds the robin's nest with the three fat baby robins in it. I'm keeping the binoculars in my sewing room so I can see so many details of that tiny home. I love the way there is moss woven into the nest.

I love strawberry bubble gum.

I love hearing my husband's voice through the door as he reads to my boy before he goes to sleep. I can't quite hear what he's saying, but that's okay.

I love the rocks and fossils I have in a crystal bowl on the banister.

I love the sound of the cars going by on the highway outside. I wonder who they are and where they're going. I wonder who loves them.

I love my grandma's china cabinet that I filled with treasures, trinkets, and toys so that my boy would love it too.

I love the blue and yellow flower my boy made for me in school.

I love the way Buddy pats my leg when I've been sitting at the computer for too long and he wants a lap.

I love the way Seth will stretch one paw out to touch me when I'm finally sitting with Buddy on my lap on the couch.

And I love my husband and my boy.  Despite the messes that I make, despite the way we get too busy, and despite the sicknesses, I really feel very blessed.

Thank you for listening, jb

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Thoughts on Osama bin Laden's Death

I've been thinking a lot about Osama bin Laden. It's another of those world issues that I just can't ignore.  You see, after the attacks in the United States, I was afraid of what he might do if he was given another chance.  I watched the news on September 11th and I'm afraid I watched those towers come down fifty times or more. I watched the Pentagon smolder and the remains of the downed plane full of heroes.  I was just sick with the thoughts of what all of those families had lost.  There were children in those towers. I was afraid for myself too.  My husband was in Phoenix on a business trip and I had a small child I needed to take care of. What if there were more terrorist attacks planned? What if my husband couldn't get home?

Here's the thing - I have never understood the hatred for our people coming from radical Islam. (I don't understand the hatred coming from racists and religious extremists in my own country either.) I'll admit that I don't know as much about what my government has done in the Middle East as I should, but can you really blame a whole country, and its children, for what a government does? I thought we'd learned this with Russia and the Cold War. After our relations thawed, I met Russian citizens who came to our country and told me that they'd never hated us. As a kid, I'd been led to believe that any given Russian hated all Americans enough that I might not be safe around them.  As it turned out, it wasn't true at all.

I know there were shameful things my own government has done.  In 2002, Bush's attack on Iraq was a travesty. I didn't agree with Saddam Hussein's way of running his country, but they hadn't attacked us, so going to war with them was wrong. The man who called himself my president totally ignored me and tens of thousands of other citizens and initiated a war on another country for no reason. I hated that. I'm still proud that I marched in the anti-war rallies back in 2002. I know that my government isn't innocent and doesn't always represent its people.

So, when I heard that Osama bin Laden was dead after all these years, I admit that I felt relief at first. Then I wondered how much hate it would generate. It felt like we were fighting the Hydra. If you cut off the head of the Hydra, two will grow back.  I have a lot of respect for President Obama, so I'm sure he thought about all of this as he made his decision about what type of mission to send to Osama bin Laden once he was located. Will the people of Afghanistan hate us more, fear us more, now that we've done this? I guess that leads to a question to which I don't know the answer - who was Osama bin Laden to the people of Afghanistan? Does the average mother in Afghanistan fear him or revere him, or maybe it isn't either one? Would any other approach have worked with bin Laden? How do you negotiate with a man like that?

I had the same problem when my boy came home from school to tell me about a bully who was kicking him. Did he try to negotiate? Will it work to avoid this kid or try to make him laugh? Will my boy have to fight back even though he'll get in trouble in school? I still don't know where the right answer lies in that question. Is this question about Osama bin Laden any different? Wasn't bin Laden just a bully on a grand scale?

In the end, I'd like to know what we can do to reduce the hatred between cultures.  We, ordinary citizens of the United States, are not so different than people of other countries. We want the same things - to raise our children in peace, to practice our own simple religion, to be allowed to work at what we love, to be allowed to live where we feel at home, to travel, to laugh, to work hard to make our communities a healthy place to live, and to let other people do the same.

So, I have a hope for what President Obama might do next. I hope he ends the war quickly (both wars, actually) and asks the question, "What can we do to help your people?" I have a lot of confidence in President Obama to do the right thing.

Thank you for listening, jb

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Not Your Usual Vocabulary

There were words that I remember hearing when I was a little girl between six and eleven years old. Some of the words, I understood. Some I didn't but I love these words for the memories I have of hearing them.

Ultraviolet, infrared, frequency, transmission, antenna, seismic, radiation, vacuum tube, semiconductor, resistor, capacitor, binary, sine waves, diffraction, microwave, radar, and Doppler. Are your eyes watering yet? These are not your usual vocabulary words for a little girl, are they? Can you believe that I have untold stories about the words 'binary' and 'sine wave?'

I had asked my dad why the sky was blue and I learned the word 'defraction' when he actually explained it to me instead of brushing me off. I'd only been trying to be silly in asking that. I didn't really want to know. Another time, he caught me singing the sound of a passing car and he explained the Doppler effect, the sound waves in front of a car piling up and the car moving faster than the waves behind it.

I liked the word 'ultraviolet' the best.  My mom said that my dad never paid any attention to colors, that he'd always have worn brown if she hadn't bought him some clothes of different colors. I remember those brown suits. He wasn't color-blind. He just wasn't interested. Then one day, he came home talking about colors.  I remember that day.

Somehow, he got to explaining to me that there were colors that our eyes couldn't see at either end of the rainbow, ultraviolet and infrared. Now, that got my attention.

"I love the rainbow," I remember saying. I realized I was losing him and that in a minute he'd probably go off to his den to get some work done.  I wasn't allowed in his den most of the time. It was stacked high with equipment - oscilloscopes, another junk television, radios that never worked, soldering irons, microphones, boxes of wiring, vacuum tubes, resistors, and capacitors. Sometimes, he let me stay in his den to sort resistors. To this day, the numbers for resistor values still represent those colors to me. I liked sorting them. Maybe I was bored with watching what someone else had chosen on television. Maybe I liked the colored stripes on the little wires. Maybe I just wanted to be my dad's special girl. But usually, I wasn't allowed in his den with him so I didn't want him to leave just yet.

"Why isn't it ultrared or infraviolet," I asked him. He looked at me. I didn't just ask questions like this to be annoying. I wanted to keep him talking.

"I like ultraviolet better," I said quickly.

"Well, I like infrared," he said. "You can do more with infrared." I liked ultraviolet since violet in the prism he showed me was so pretty. So we actually argued about which was better. Can you imagine arguing with a nine year old girl about liking purple? But he did.  He said that infrared was easier because it was slower.

"Since when is a color slow?" I asked him. I assumed that he'd made some kind of mistake. Then, he started talking about waves, diffraction, and frequency. Somewhere in all of it, he'd lost me. I tried to understand. I really did. Then, when I knew I couldn't understand, I tried to look interested anyway. I liked hearing him talk, especially because these strange words made him so happy. But eventually, he could tell he'd lost me again. I think he was trying to keep my attention for just a little bit longer.

Thank you for listening, jb

Apollo 12

I'm watching Apollo 13 again.  That movie always makes me cry. Always. It's the part when they show the whole room full of men wearing short-sleeved white shirts and ties.  They all had crew cuts.  They all looked like my dad, ready to go to work. That's the part that gets to me.

Yet, it isn't Apollo 13 or even Apollo 11 that's important in my memory.  Oh, we all crowded around our junkyard television to watch Apollo 11. We watched Walter Cronkite talk. We waited. And waited.  I heard Neil Armstrong say his famous giant leap line.  I had a secret crush on Neil Armstrong even though he was almost my dad's age.  My dad was so excited that he couldn't sit down on the couch. You all know that it was 1969, then, but for me, it started in 1966.

My dad was an engineer for the Navy.  Sometimes, he went on secret trips.  One time, he actually had a briefcase handcuffed to his arm after he stopped by at home before he left.  Another time, he was going to be gone for two weeks and he had parked a gray government van in the driveway. We all stood on the front patio and looked at it, trying to see in. "What's in the back of the van, Daddy?" I asked him.

He leaned down and looked at me. "I can't tell you," he whispered with a gleam in his eyes and then he looked at my mother and grinned.  The look on her face said she did not like not knowing what was going on, not at all.

"Where ya goin, Daddy?" I asked him.

"I can't tell you," he said and he smiled a little. 

"Daddy, are you a spy?" I asked.

"Nope, just an engineer," he answered. I could tell that he liked this game. The next morning, he was gone.  I missed him when he was gone, but he always brought home presents.  Trinkets, really, but I loved them. I still have the top to the pencil that came off that was shaped like Frankenstein and the wire ring he brought home.  When he got back from this trip, he had something for each of us and he also had a box of the most amazing oranges I had ever tasted.  Remember, I grew up in Indiana in the sixties.

So, in 1966, we all went to Florida for our vacation after Christmas. It was the first time I had ever seen the ocean. It was cold, but my brother, dad, and I all swam anyway.  It was so exciting, but I forgot to be scared.  My dad had hold of my hand on one side and my brother had the other.  That first wave, which was taller than I was, came right up and slapped me out of their hands. I swirled around and around in the salt and sandy water.  Before I could be pulled out into the undertow, my dad picked me up.  I was sputtering.

"Let's do it again!" I said when I could finally talk.  So we got slammed over and over until we figured out how to dive under the water just before the wave slapped us.  I was freezing, but I didn't want to stop. 

On that trip, I heard alligators roar in the Everglades, fed seagulls out the window of a restaurant, ate more oranges than I could hold, and walked in what I remember as the biggest building in the world.  We went to the Kennedy Space Center, as it was called then, and got a special tour.  I remember the guy telling us that the only reason we got the inside tour was that my dad was special and knew everyone there.  He made me feel so proud of my dad. I tried really hard to listen to every word he said, but the only thing I remember from that tour was that the building was so big that it rained inside it every day.  They were building another rocket in there, but I don't remember which one.  I was six after all.

My dad went on lots of other secret trips, but he always brought back oranges, so that I knew where he'd been.  One time, he didn't bring back oranges, but instead brought wine from Knott's Berry Farm.  We all had a little sip of that stuff.  Oh, it was awful. I never wanted to taste wine again. We guessed where he'd been by the things he brought back. He never told us if we were right or wrong. And I knew, even then, not to say where I thought he had been around anyone but my family.

So when the Apollo missions began, my dad was glued to the television for each one.  I didn't really like watching the news, but it was on all the stations and we were excited just because my dad was.  It was sometime in November of 1969. We were downstairs watching the Apollo 12 mission on our black and white TV.  At some point, Walter Cronkite said something.  I didn't even hear what it was that he'd said but my dad jumped up in the air and said, "It worked! It worked!" and sat back down really quickly and put his hands in his lap.

"What worked, Daddy?" I asked him. He sat on that green couch as still as a panther about to strike. 

"I can't tell you," he said quietly and he grinned.

Thanks for listening, jb

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting Ready

I'm too tired for anything serious today.  I stayed up until midnight last night thinking that I'd get a chance to get more sleep this morning before I went to volunteer for Coop's class.  I'm running on less than six hours of sleep.  It's not good. I can't form my words correctly.  I have a coffee in front of me. That will help, but it's still too hot to drink.  Bleah! It's way too sweet.

My boy usually goes to catch the bus at 7:49 am. At 7:45, I tell him it's time to put on his shoes at which time, he'll usually scarf down his breakfast and run in to take his medicine and brush his teeth. My husband, in the meantime is singing the annoying 'you're going to miss the bus' song. He thinks that helps. At 7:40, I tell my boy it's time to brush his teeth and take his medicine. Then, he'll casually leave our bedroom where he's hanging out with my husband and go find some clothes. My husband will be whistling some song that will get stuck in my head all day and throwing pillows at my boy. At 7:35, I tell my boy that there are fifteen minutes until the bus comes and he needs to get dressed. He's usually watching Sponge Bob on television with a blank look on his face. My husband is watching Sponge Bob on television with a blank look on his face.  At 7:05, after I've got breakfast ready, I go to wake up my boy who has his face buried in a pillow.  "You need to take a shower, hon.  Try to get in there before your dad so you can use all the hot water," I tell him. My husband is often asleep on the couch and I have to try to make breakfast, lunch, and a snack without turning on any lights or making any noise. He knows he has to get up at 7:30am when I drag out my Magic Bullet to make my protein fiber smoothie. I love my Magic Bullet.

So, this morning, at 7:43, my boy told me he needs to get camouflage pants for his Colin Powell speech today.  He has worked very hard on this project and I've learned a lot about Colin Powell.  I like Colin Powell.  The weapons of mass destruction problem was a problem, but I'd still vote for him if he ran for President.  Everyone makes mistakes, especially those who serve our country for more than thirty-five years.  But what I didn't know was that my boy was going to be dressed as Colin Powell today. "And mom, I need stars for my shoulders. Can I bring my army helmet to school? You need to come before 9:00 so that you can watch my speech," my boy says to me during a pause in the pillow fight.  "What?" I said to him.

Welcome to my morning and thanks for listening, jb

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cooking Dinner

I don't like to whine, but I'm tired of cooking for my family.  I mean, really.

I used to like cooking for my family when our needs were simple. My boy can't have any tree nuts, and my husband can't have many fibrous vegetables.  I could deal with that.  I had gotten used to it. It was pretty simple when you took all of the nuts out of the house (with the exception of the one writing here) and I learned how to chop onions really big so they can easily be picked out of food.

My husband has IBS, but thankfully, we figured out early that he can control it with food. We were just dating when all this started. Before he got a handle on it, it was impossible to go anywhere. The man was very thin, weak, and gray. Thin's not so bad, but the gray wasn't a good look for him. Thankfully, I was too smart to dump him just because he was pale and couldn't go anywhere. But now, he has a list  of foods he can't eat.  For him, no onions, lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, celery, broccoli, artichoke, asparagus, peppers, shallots, or weird untested vegetables.

And then there is my boy.  We learned very early on that he has a life-threatening allergy to tree nuts.  Three or four really frightening trips to the emergency room set all of that into motion. When he got the standard skin test, they said that his tree nut allergies were so bad, he'd probably have them all of his life. So bakeries and candy shops are off limits. Once, I ate a couple of almonds and then kissed him. His eye stayed swelled shut for two days while we kept him on antihistamine.  For him, no walnuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, filberts, pistachios, nut extracts, marzipan, Frangelico (just kidding), Brazil nuts, chestnuts, hickory nuts, cashews, pralines, Nutella, nougat, pesto, or anything made on equipment that also processes tree nuts.

A couple of years ago, I found out that I'm practically diabetic, so I count carbs. If I eat the equivalent to two slices of bread in carbs at any one time, I feel sick.  That includes all those sneaky little carbs in the peas and the fruit.  I can handle making low-carb meals. So, for me, no carbs, mostly.

Last summer, my boy started having stomach aches every night.  We went back and forth with his pediatrician for a couple of months. She blamed it on his weight. She also blamed a rash on his weight.  It was the only thing she could talk about whenever we went in for any problems.  So we changed pediatricians. Then, we finally got to a gastroenterologist who tested him for sensitivity to fructose, a three-hour breathing test. They didn't even finish his test, his results were so conclusive.  For three weeks, we went on a very low fructose diet.  I went on it with him figuring that fructose was close enough to carbohydrates that I'd be in diabetic heaven. It was awful.  I couldn't have lettuce, apples, asparagus, or artichokes. I was miserable, but I held out because I didn't want my boy to be doing all this by himself. If it was hard, it was going to be hard for both of us. He's been on this diet for a while.  No high-fructose corn syrup, no sugar, no stevia, no watermelon, no peaches. He shouldn't eat apples, lettuce, asparagus, artichokes, or cherries. 

Recently, his mouth started swelling up when we were eating gyros.  Another trip to the allergy specialist and we found out that he's also allergic to ground sesame seeds.  So, no hummus or tahini. And we're all just a little nervous about sesame seed buns.

So, you can understand why I get a little annoyed when the next doctor suggests something like a low-fat diet.

That's whining, isn't it?

Thank you for listening, jb